NHRC issues notice to Gujarat government over death of children in Surat fire

PTI New Delhi May 25, 2019, 10.38 PM(IST)

File photo of Surat coaching centre fire. Photograph:( AFP )

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The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) also observed that mere announcement of compensation to the aggrieved families cannot be a solution to such kind of hazards.

The NHRC Saturday sent a notice to the Gujarat government over the fire tragedy in Surat in which 22 students died in a massive blaze at a commercial complex in Sarthana area of the city, officials said.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) also observed that mere announcement of compensation to the aggrieved families cannot be a solution to such kind of hazards.

Three of the 22 students who died in the fire in the ill-fated Takshila Complex on Friday had appeared for the Class 12 Board examinations and had cleared them comfortably, as per results that were declared Saturday.

Among the dead, 18 are girls, the youngest being 15 years of age and the eldest just 22, police said.

The NHRC has taken suo motu cognisance of the incident, it said in a statement.

"Considering the incident as a grave violation of the human rights of the young students, the Commission has issued a notice to the chief secretary, government of Gujarat calling for a detailed report in the matter, including status of the criminal cases registered against the building owner and others found guilty, along with action taken against the public servants concerned," the rights panel said.

 In the response, the chief secretary has been asked to include the legal status of the building, its construction, fire fighting measures, fire safety clearance and relief granted to the grief-stricken families, it said.

"The Commission also expects that the best and free of cost treatment is provided by the state to the injured persons. Response from the state government is expected within four weeks," the NHRC statement said.

Issuing the notice, the NHRC has also observed that it has been constantly insisting the authorities to be more vigilant to avoid such tragic incidents.

"Going by the media reports, it appears that there was no safe passage for the victims, which could have been used as a fire exit in case of the emergency. Mere announcement of compensation to the aggrieved families cannot be a solution to such kind of hazards," the Commission observed.

Several such incidents have occurred across the country where precious human lives have been lost due to negligence by the authorities and lack of fire department's clearance, it added.

While some of the students died of suffocation, many due to injuries sustained after jumping off windows to escape the fire. In a video clip of the incident, some young students at the Complex could be seen jumping off the third and fourth floors amid plumes of thick smoke.

According to eyewitnesses, at least 10 students had jumped out to save themselves from the blaze. The state government had ordered a detailed inquiry into the incident. 

As per media reports, the fire department officials reached the spot and deployed 19 fire trucks and two hydraulic platforms to douse the fire and evacuate the people trapped in the building, the NHRC said.

"An inquiry into the matter has reportedly been ordered by the state government. Reportedly, Rs 4 lakh to the next of kin of the deceased have been announced by the state government and as a precautionary measure all the tuition centres or coaching centres, etc, have been ordered to be closed in the area. The fire hazard checks are also being conducted in various places," the statement said.